Google Street View regularly makes the news with it’s ability to take the viewer to destinations around the world. Apart from visiting streets in far-flung locales, people can use Street View to explore Egypt’s pyramids, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, the Great Barrier Reef and follow Darwin’s footsteps in the Galápagos islands. That last destination was so popular that Google Earth and the Street View camera returned, but this time to wander amid the habitat of the giant tortoises for which the islands are famous, reports Cheney Gardner for Outside.
Some species of Galápagos tortoises were approaching extinction, but conservation efforts and breeding centers helped the populations grow. Researchers already know that some tortoises migrate from the lowlands in the rainy season to the highlands in the dry season. The new Street View collection allows viewers to trace some of this route from their computers.
“The park arranged for the trekker to go to some of the places that are off-limits to tourists, where the tortoise had been restored to its natural habitat,” Raleigh Seamster, the project lead from Google Earth Outreach, tells Outside. “People are able to see places — where the turtles eat in the morning, where they sleep at night, their migratory routes — they wouldn’t otherwise be able to visit.”
Researchers are also comparing some of the data from the more recent visit, which took place in December 2014, to the data from the first visit in 2013. Any changes they note could give them hints on how to keep the island life healthy.
Some things to do in the Galápagos Street view:
- See adult tortoises congregate on the rim of Alcedo crater on Isabela island where thick damp fog nurtures the plants they like to munch.
- Follow the tortoise 'superhighway' from that feeding ground to other areas of the Alcedo volcano, as they migrate to find food when the wet season arrives.
- Visit the more arid island of Pinzon, where tortoises seek shade under Opuntia cactuses.
- For a change of animal, drop in on frigatebirds nesting, sea lions swimming or a land iguana… iguana-ing.
- And find some morning zen with tortoises just awakening to the sunlight.